Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – More of the Same? That’s Okay!

This week, Ubisoft officially announced the next Assassin’s Creed game would be titled Syndicate and confirmed it would take place in Victorian era London. As has become standard for the Internet, responses ranged from eager anticipation to bemoaning a release of yet another Assassin’s Creed game that is essentially the same game repackaged with a new coat of paint.

The first Assassin’s Creed was released in 2007 and in the past 8 years, there have been 9 entries in the main series with an additional thirteen side games, as well as comics, graphic novels, a short film, animated shorts, and soon a full length feature film starring Michael Fassbender. It’s hard to argue that’s not a lot of games in 8 years. It is.

Focusing on the main series, 9 entries is essentially a new entry in the main series every year with a little short of here and there to squeeze an extra in that cycle time. This has led to some gamers seeing Assassin’s Creed as old, dull, boring, or a cheap rehash of the same game with nothing new. Some would prefer more creativity and true innovation in each sequel with longer cycle times while others are happy to play the games as they are each year.

Unity Cover

With the exception of when they’re released buggy as all get out.

Essentially, Assassin’s Creed has become Ubisoft’s Call of Duty, a franchise that uses the same engine and same gameplay with each installment allowing for short cycle times and fast turn around getting the product out. Personally, I’ve played every installment except for Rogue and have yet to play Unity. I own it, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I actually acknowledge it’s the same game each time with a new location, but I’m actually okay with that. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon in the game world either.

Mega Man Bosses

8 games in 9 years with only two missing an annual release.

The question, though, is whether or not this rehashing with a few new bells and whistles is acceptable or not. Personally, I’d argue it is.

Assassin’s Creed is Ubisoft’s tentpole movie if they were a Hollywood film studio. Paramount Pictures has a proven track record that year after year they will make millions of dollars on sTransformer, though I’d actually take any Assassin’s Creed plot over Transformers films myself. Essentially, Ubisoft knows they’ll make money with each installment with minimal development time and minimal investment. It’s a low risk, high return on investment game.

Some will feel that’s bad from a perspective of the art and craftsmanship of a team making the games, but I again point to Hollywood. Not every movie, nor every game, needs to be a critically acclaimed artistic achievement. Some are summer blockbusters you enjoy with popcorn, talk about for the weekend, and maybe watch again later on DVD, Bluray, or Netflix. Maybe you make your child watch/play through it one day.

The reason I compare it to the Hollywood tentpole movies is that it serves a similar purpose. It keeps revenue coming in and allows Ubisoft to continue to operate and take chances with other games. For every wildly profitable Assassin’s Creed they publish, they can take chances on smaller games and new IPs like Watch_Dogs, Child of Light, or Valiant Hearts The Great War plus games like South Park The Stick of Truth. Ubisoft isn’t a one trick pony milking their only cash cow. They’ve made a lot of games. 76, to be precise, of varying types just between Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, for example.

If the profits weren’t rolling in from the blockbuster title each year, would we have gotten Child of Light or Valiant Hearts at all? Valiant Hearts was already a labor of love that almost didn’t get the okay to be made. And while, yes, Ubisoft doesn’t make award winning game after award winning game, it’s still good for them to be doing some exploration with other ideas and genres. Plus Watch_Dogs likely wouldn’t have been made at all if it weren’t for Assassin’s Creed’s success. That game had its share of complaints as well, but I wager the second is going to be a huge improvement much like the leap from Assassin’s Creed to its first sequel and may give Ubisoft two flagship games to generate revenue and allow for more experimentation with other games as well.

So whether you’re like me and love some stabbin’ each year or you’re tired of Assassin’s Creed entirely, I think it’s worth remembering that so long as the games are bringing in a profit, it’s quite likely that we all could benefit from it allowing Ubisoft to bring other games forward in the future.

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